Memorial University Research Project
Pan-Canadian School Board Governance Study
Drs. Bruce Sheppard and Gerald Galway, Memorial University, in collaboration with the Canadian School Boards Association have assembled a research team to undertake a national study of school board governance. This study is focused on improving our collective understanding of the attributes of effective school boards across Canada and, in the current context of increasing accountability, furthering our understanding of the relationships between school boards and provincial governments. Towards these purposes, we are examining three overarching questions:
- What are the attributes of effective school boards in Canada? Do these attributes vary by province? How can these attributes be replicated in jurisdictions across the country?
- What is the nature of educational governance in school boards in Canada? Who are the principal actors and what are their governance roles? Does the governance model vary by province?
- What are the factors and influences that drive policy decision-making in Canadian school boards?
Purpose of the Study
This study is a follow-up to previous work (Sheppard, Brown & Dibbon, 2009) that reveals that school boards matter a great deal to the existence of successful public education systems, but only effective school boards have a positive impact on schools and student learning. Bringing about meaningful, sustainable improvement of teaching and learning across our nation requires that we learn more about the attributes and priorities of school boards and their relationships with the governments that create and fund them. It is toward that purpose that this research is directed.
Within this context, we are also extending Galway’s (2009) work on policy and decision-making in education departments by examining policy making at the school board level. Across Canada there have been numerous recent examples of incidents where the political and ideological interests of provincial governments have run counter to the perceived mandates of school boards and the governance roles of elected trustees. In several notable cases governments have intervened to influence or overturn school board decisions. In our study we wish to explore the relationship between school boards and government and the factors that impact their respective policy decisions. We believe this work has the potential to facilitate effective working relationships between ministries of education and school districts towards a sustained focus on teaching and learning.
We also anticipate that the results of this work will help inform planning and decision making within school boards and provincial school board associations in each of the provinces.
Dr. Bruce Sheppard, Memorial University
Dr. Gerald Galway, Memorial University
Dr. Jean Brown, Memorial University
Dr. John Wiens, University of Manitoba
School Board Trustees and Commissioners
Your participation will help make this research a success. As part of this study, in March 2011 we will distribute research materials to 200 randomly selected school boards across Canada. A designated person at your school district office may ask you to complete a 15 minute survey on governance and decision-making. Your involvement is voluntary and entirely anonymous. You will not be asked to provide any identifying information. When you have completed the survey, seal it in the envelope that will be provided and return it to the designated person in your district office.